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Opinion

Shipping of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard shows the rot of our immigration debate

Democrats and Republicans are interested in winning, not actually solving problems.

A 27-year-old migrant named Pablo unwittingly shipped to Martha’s Vineyard last week marveled at the speed with which Massachusetts authorities helped him and others who arrived unexpectedly.

“It is a great country,” he told the Texas Tribune and the Boston Globe.

What he may not know is that he got caught in a tug-of-war between a political party that sees Pablo as a chess piece and another one that would cover its eyes, ears and mouth to the fact Pablo is in this country at all. Republicans and Democrats want to one-up each other, but neither party seems to actually want to solve the border problem or the mess that is our immigration system.

Gov. Greg Abbott made his point about the overwhelming pressure migration has placed on Texas border communities when he started busing migrants to Democratic-led cities in April. We recognized that the political stunt was accidentally humanitarian, offering hundreds of migrants a safe, free and voluntary trip to destinations that often brought them closer to relatives.

But in the hands of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, this stunt has deteriorated. DeSantis took credit for flying migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, though migrants told reporters they were tricked to get on the plane.

Attorneys for the migrants seeking asylum say they were given a brochure with information about jobs and cash assistance for refugees, according to news reports. A spokeswoman for DeSantis told NBC News that the information wasn’t “fraudulent” because it came directly from the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants.

Refugees are different from asylum-seekers under our immigration system. Refugees apply for humanitarian relief outside of the U.S. and arrive here with visas once they’ve been vetted. They receive some federal assistance after their arrival. That’s not the case for migrants who make asylum claims at the border and are admitted pending a decision by the government.

If the DeSantis administration created or approved the brochures, then it betrays ignorance about immigration laws that govern the border. That, or it purposefully deceived migrants. Federal authorities should investigate.

The Biden administration could have done something to blunt Republican criticism and acknowledged the border crisis. But even as record numbers of migrants stream across the border, Vice President Kamala Harris told CNN this weekend that the border is secure. It’s unbelievable. And the fact that just 50 or so migrants were bused out of Martha’s Vineyard to a military base within a day echoes Abbott’s point that northern Democratic strongholds really don’t have a clue how serious the border’s migration crisis has become.

And so much for addressing the root causes of migration. El Salvador, once a U.S. ally and a major source of migrants, is going the way of Venezuela, with President Nayib Bukele announcing that he will seek reelection. This is illegal under the Salvadoran constitution. All the response the State Department could muster was a tepid statement about “free and fair elections” that made no mention of Bukele, according to investigative news outlet El Faro.

Republicans have made their point. They got the attention they wanted. Now it’s time to engage Democrats to solve the problem.

And Democrats, you can cover your eyes and pretend the border isn’t a problem. Texans don’t have that luxury, and they will show it at the polls.

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